Signs a Tooth Needs Root Canal Therapy

ENDODONTIC TREATMENT, also called root canal therapy, is a dental procedure in which decayed dental pulp is removed so that...

ENDODONTIC TREATMENT, also called root canal therapy, is a dental procedure in which decayed dental pulp is removed so that the rest of the natural tooth doesn’t need to be extracted. More than 15 million people in the US benefit from this procedure every year, so what are some of the signs that indicate a tooth might be in need of root canal therapy?

The Tooth Becoming Loose

The only time a tooth should be loose is if it’s a baby tooth with an adult tooth pushing it out. If an adult tooth is loose, it’s a problem and often a symptom of infection or the result of an injury. In either case, it needs the attention of a dental professional. When a tooth dies, the acidic waste products can make the bone around the root softer.

A Chipped or Cracked Tooth

An otherwise healthy tooth that becomes damaged (whether by an accident or even cracking while chewing on something hard) may need root canal therapy. The damage to the tooth could be giving bacteria access to the pulp chamber at the center, which will result in inflammation and infection that can spread down through the root of the tooth. Even injuries without visible damage above the gum line may require treatment.

Sensitivity and Tooth Pain

Some teeth that need root canal therapy aren’t painful, especially if the tooth has already died, but a persistently painful tooth very likely needs root canal therapy. If the tooth hurts when you put pressure on it, it could have severe decay or nerve damage, especially if the pain lasts after you remove the pressure. When the pulp dies, it can irritate the ligament around the root tip, making chewing or touching the tooth very painful.

If a tooth is very sensitive to hot and cold temperatures, that could mean damage or infection to the nerves. A long-lasting toothache, even if it isn’t strongly affected by temperature or pressure changes, can also be a sign it’s time to see the endodontist. Even if it turns out that the pain was caused by something else, it’s safest to make sure it’s not a dangerous tooth infection.

Swollen Gum Tissue

The gums swelling around a painful tooth are a good indicator that the tooth is in trouble. The swelling might come or go and could be tender to the touch. It could be associated with an abscess, which is when the infection in a tooth spreads to the bone around the root. These can ooze pus, causing a foul taste and bad breath, and they are incredibly painful.

Discoloration of the Tooth

An infected tooth sometimes changes colors. This is different than a surface-level stain; in this case, a tooth takes on a grayish-black appearance, indicating the breakdown of the pulp inside. This kind of discoloration is definitely an indicator that root canal therapy is needed.

The Endodontist Can Save That Tooth!

It’s always preferable to keep a tooth healthy so that it doesn’t need endodontic treatment in the first place, but dental problems happen to the best of us. When they do, it’s important to get treatment from the right dental professional, and when a tooth needs saving, that’s the endodontist. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms we described, get in touch so we can figure out if endodontic treatment can help!

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Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
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